According to an increasing number of people, Japan is no longer one of the safest countries in the world. But it is not just the earthquakes and recent train derailment tragedy that are making Japanese nervous. Figures show that there were almost 200,000 burglaries and thefts from homes in 2003, 1.7 times higher than the number six years previously. Meanwhile, the number of arrests remains at about 30 per cent, less than half what it used to be. With concerns rising, owners are increasingly willing to spend more money on home security. Indeed, the market - including hi-tech locks, lights, surveillance cameras, automatic alarm and reporting systems, and security services - has more than doubled in size in the past 10 years, industry insiders say. A survey of 1,000 consumers by the Nihon Keizai newspaper in March found that about 70 per cent had taken some action to improve home security. One such person, a friend, is the wife of a businessman who frequently travels overseas. She recently spent 1 million yen ($74,500) on a new front door for the house. She now regrets acting in haste. 'Security devices improve every year, just like computers,' she said. Indeed, in a case of science fiction becoming fact, one builder in Tokyo will market 73 flats this month in a five-storey building equipped with an iris-identification system. One lock producer, also in Tokyo, last month announced that it would begin selling a fingerprint-based door lock that can be installed on a regular door. Another firm, in Yokohama, which makes 'smart keys' for cars, offers the same remote locking system on the entrance doors of homes, doing away with a traditional keyhole. And it is not only locksmiths and home builders who are jumping on the bandwagon to get a slice of the booming home-security business. Asahi Glass has developed 'crime-preventive, sensor-equipped glass', while Matsushita Electric Works has for a few years now taken its portable showroom on tour. It features 12 anti-crime devices installed on gates, doors and windows, demonstrating how these hi-tech systems can drive away criminals. And, this being Japan, the robotics industry has also got in on the act. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has come up with Wakamaru, a robot that can sense abnormal sounds or movements in an empty home. It is then able to report back to the owner via a phone or the internet - and can provide visual evidence from a camera installed in its body. It is expected to be on sale, priced at about 1.5 million yen, by next March. I just wonder how long it will be before someone comes up with a robot robber.